Thursday, December 04, 2014

December 4th, 1914

- The Canadian soldiers encamped on Salisbury Plain continue to endure miserable conditions.  There is heavy rainfall almost every day, while cold was a constant companion and frost frequently occurred each night.  Today the weather offers a particular insult - as soldiers line up to receive their pay, a sudden storms blows the treasury bills away.

- The Operations Bureau at French army headquarters submits another assessment to Joffre, this time emphasizing the importance of railways and lines of communication.  Unfortunately from their perspective, the territory Germany occupies has a dense railway network, both laterally and reaching back across the Rhine, allowing the Germans to both bring reinforcements to the front quickly and move reserves between different parts of the line.  The assessment emphasizes the importance of major offensive operations targeting important rail connections to negate this German advantage.

- Today the French 1st Bombardment Group undertakes its first mission, striking the railway station at the German city of Freiburg.

- As the Serbian counteroffensive continues today, it is aided by a break in the weather.  In contrast to the wet and muddy conditions of late November, today begins a warm spell that drys out the ground and eases their advance.  The Serbs continue to hammer the Austro-Hungarian 6th Army, which falls back in disarray.

- Only this afternoon does the Russian 3rd Army realize that its southern flank is in danger and move reserves to counter the Austro-Hungarian advance.  Thus when Roth's infantry divisions shift their line of advance to the north to envelop the Russian 3rd Army, they encounter significant resistance for the first time.  This convinces the commander of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army that his forces should be concentrated to the north, while only a small cavalry force is needed to screen Neusandez to the east.

It is also today that General Ivanov at South-West Front headquarters realizes that the Austro-Hungarians are undertaking a major counteroffensive south of Krakow against 3rd Army.  Moreover, General Ruszkii of North-West Front is insisting Ivanov needs to send reinforcements northwards to aid the defence of Poland.  Under these pressures, Ivanov has ordered General Brusilov of 8th Army to redeploy VIII  and XXIV Corps towards Neusandez and Gorlice, while the rest of 8th Army is to shift over to the defensive.

- At 5am this morning the detachment of Indian Expeditionary Force D assigned to move on Qurna departs the British camp and sails up the Shatt al-Arab, escorted by two warships and two armed steamers.  As the warships silence two Ottoman artillery pieces the soldiers land on the west bank and begin their advance northwards.  Their movement is slowed by a lack of cavalry, meaning reconnaisance on the unknown terrain had to be undertaken by infantry.  Coming up to an Ottoman position, the Indian infantry first perceived great enemy defenses, only to discover they had been a mirage and the Ottoman soldiers were only weakly-entrenched.  The retreating Ottomans are able to cross over to Qurna on the east bank, and for several hours the Indian and Ottomans exchange fire across the river.  As the British officers have no accurate maps of the region the width of the Tigris (200-300 yards) at this point comes as something of a surprise to them, and the British commander quickly concludes that his small force is insufficient to force a crossing.  He orders his detachment to fall back southward to where they had landed in the morning, while reinforcements are dispatched from the main IEF D camp at Basra.

No comments:

Post a Comment